Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams

Thirty-four years ago today, on June 26, 1975, two young FBI Special Agents, Jack R. Coler (left) and Ronald A. Williams (right), were shot to death execution-style at close range after they were already injured and on the ground. I have written about this murder here, but there is an overiew of these murders at the No Parole Peltier Association, and at AIM Myth Busters. The official FBI summary of the RESMURS (Reservation murders) is posted on the Minneapolis FBI site.

A career criminal named Leonard Peltier was convicted of aiding and abetting the murders.

The anniversary of this day is remembered here by John Trimbach, the son of FBI Special Agent Joseph Trimbach [See Trimbachs' Press Room Page]:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Contact: James Simon at

News Alert: 10 Reasons Why Leonard Peltier Should Never Be Freed

June 26, 2009 - Every year in June, Leonard Peltier supporters and ranters unite in calling for his release from the confines of the federal penitentiary. Even those who say he may be guilty argue that Peltier should be freed for "humanitarian" reasons because he'll soon be 65-years-old. For the record, Peltier objects to serving two consecutive life sentences for the execution-style murders of FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams on June 26, 1975. Peltier has always claimed the truth of his innocence has never had a chance to blossom. While truth, no doubt, plays a reassuring role in the quest for justice, it is not something that has been a friend to the infamous Native American cause célèbre. The truth is particularly harmful to Peltier this year because he comes up for a parole board hearing on July 28, his first since 1993. Some say this is his last chance to bamboozle the board.

Though Peltier is loath to admit it, the truth has never failed to surface; first during his trial, and ever since, through old secrets revealed. And the evidence has always beaten a path to Peltier's cell door, most often by way of his own flawed thinking. Peltier thought the Agents were there to arrest him (they weren't), that he was justified in shooting two men in the face at point-blank range (he wasn't), and that he can now lie his way to freedom before a parole board (he can't.) But because Peltier says he didn't do it, his followers simply believe him. Not only do they believe him, they issue astounding proclamations in support of his innocence, his make-belief persona as "political prisoner," and his "human rights activist" nonsense. As one blogger recently swore, "Leonard Peltier is not in prison for killing the two Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Agents as is alleged, he has been incarcerated for 33 years because he belonged to a group (American Indian Movement) that dared to challenge the federal government and their lies. When one has the audacity to challenge the fedgov, he/she becomes a target for malicious prosecution, fabricated evidence, witness tampering and illegal imprisonment. Leonard Peltier has experienced all of these in the extreme. "

"Extreme" is certainly a word Peltier pushers are familiar with. "Extreme," as in not allowing the facts to get in the way of regurgitating fables and falsehoods. "Extreme," as in ignoring the Federal Register, the Federal Record, and the court testimony, all of which place Peltier at the scene of the crime, at the moment the killing shots were fired. And so in the spirit of Coler and Williams, here are ten truthful reasons why Peltier should never see the light of day as a free man:

1. Peltier was fairly tried and fairly convicted. This is the conclusion of every federal judge who has reviewed the case. Since his conviction in 1977, the evidence against Peltier has been repeatedly confirmed, expanded, and corroborated. [See: (Note FN 15: "The two witnesses testified outside the presence of the jury that after their testimony at trial, they had been threatened by Peltier himself that if they did not return to court and testify that their earlier testimony had been induced by F.B.I. threats, their lives would be in danger")]

2. Facts of the case prove that Peltier opened fire on the Agents from a distance of over 200 yards. Armed with only their side arms, both young men were soon wounded. After the initial shooting ended, Peltier, along with two other men, walked down to the wounded Agents and finished them off, shooting them both in the face at point-blank range.

3. A few months after the murders, Peltier bragged about killing Agent Ron Williams, as recalled by a witness in a separate murder trial in 2004. Under oath, the witness recalled Peltier's exact words: "The motherfu—er was begging for his life but I shot him anyway." (See here.)

4. Peltier has parlayed his Native American ancestry into a successful defense fund, bilking millions of people out of their time and money. He has fooled Amnesty International, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, and people all over the world. Peltier is supported by Hollywood heavyweights Robert Redford, David Geffen, and Oliver Stone, all of whom have fallen prey to his propaganda machine. Redford produced and narrated a documentary that uses Peltier's own concoctions to explain away his guilt, such as the Mr. X alibi, later exposed as another Peltier ruse.

5. Freeing an unrepentant murderer like Peltier is contrary to all principles of parole and rehabilitation. It would undermine law enforcement efforts, subvert the rule of law, and compound the anguish of the victims' families. Freeing a killer like Peltier would be particularly devastating to FBI Agents who risk their lives every day in pursuit of criminals. A pardon would also be detrimental to American interests by giving ammunition to our enemies. They will point to our system of justice as one that convicts innocent Native Americans, thus confirming their argument that Peltier was wrongfully convicted and that our court system is unfair. Worldwide media will parrot these conclusions as if they are fact-based.

6. Freeing a guilty killer like Peltier would undermine efforts to investigate crimes on Indian reservations. Many Indians would view his freedom as a sign that the FBI and the Justice Department had always tried to mislead Indian Country about the facts of the case. Many Indians would be more reluctant to cooperate with current investigations.

7. Peltier escaped from prison in July 1979 during which a young Indian was shot and killed. Peltier claimed he was targeted by the FBI for assassination. The truth is that he had planned his escape for several years, and counted on help from outside contacts. Peltier must be held responsible for the needless death he caused and for threatening a man from whom he stole a truck during his escape. Peltier was sentenced to seven additional years for his escape attempt.

8. If Peltier is freed, it will be more difficult to indict him on other murders in which he may have been involved. In one of these cases, Peltier interrogated a young woman, Anna Mae Aquash, by putting a loaded gun in her mouth. Aquash's execution was ordered by leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) because they mistakenly believed that she was an FBI informan (See

9. Contrary to his claims, Peltier has always put himself above the welfare of Native Americans. One of his recent newsletters opened with the words, "May Death Be Upon You, FBI" These are not the thoughts of an innocent man, but rather the wish of someone wanting to stir up violence. Peltier would like nothing better than to agitate for criminal acts against Indians who oppose his freedom and who count on the FBI to apprehend evildoers on the reservation. Peltier has nothing but contempt for our system of justice. He has done nothing to earn his freedom.

10. Peltier's 1993 Parole Board recognized that he was convicted of aiding and abetting the murders. But then the Board went on to say: "... the greater probability is that you yourself fired the fatal shots... It would be unjust to treat the slaying of these F.B.I. agents, while they lay wounded and helpless, as if your actions had been part of a gun battle. Neither the state of relations between Native American militants and law enforcement at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prior to June 26, 1975, nor the exchanges of gunfire between individuals at the Jumping Bull Compound and the law enforcement agents who arrived there during the hours after Agents Coler and Williams were murdered, explains or mitigates the crimes you committed... Your release on parole would promote disrespect for the law in contravention of 18 U.S.C..."

Leonard Peltier is guilty. He has done nothing to show that he accepts responsibility for his crimes. To this day, Peltier remains defiant, manipulative, and completely remorseless. Freeing this ruthless killer would be a terrible travesty of justice.

John M. Trimbach
Trimbach & Associates, Inc.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Queen Elizabeth Not Invited to D-Day Ceremonies in France

Princess Elisabeth served as a driver and a mechanic during WWII. The future Queen Elizabeth was the first female member of the British Royal Family to serve in the military.
"We are are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well."---The 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth addresses British refugee children from Winsor Castle on "The Children's" hour in 1940.

For some reason, Queen Elizabeth was not invited to France to observe the anniversary of D-Day, which began on June 6, 1944, even though she is "the only living head of state who served in uniform during World War II."

In 1940, as a 14-year-old girl, Princess Elizabeth spoke on the BBC radio program called The Children's Hour and gave encouragement to all the British children who had been evacuated from the cities to the countryside and even to different countries of the British Empire. The Princess also remembered to thank all the counties who sheltered these young war refugees.

During WWII, the teenaged Princess served as an Army driver and a mechanic. "She joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. Princess Elizabeth trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and rose to the rank of Junior Commander."

The future Queen Elizabeth was the first female member British Royal Family to join the military. What a shame that Queen Elizabeth was not invited to France for the 65th Anniversay of D-Day and thanked for her service.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Attorney Mark Lane and the Poisoned Cheese Sandwiches

"[Jonestown lawyer Mark Lane] accompanied [Congressman] Ryan, Speier and the rest of us to Jonestown. By his own account, he managed to escape just in time, after Ryan had been killed and the carnage in Jonestown had begun. A few days after the killings, Lane asked me if I had eaten the cheese sandwiches served to us that day before we left for the airstrip where I was wounded and Ryan was murdered. When I said yes, I had eaten the sandwiches, Lane said he had not – because he’d been told they were poisoned. Why hadn’t he told Ryan and the rest of us, I asked. There was no response."--Charles A. Krause in the Washington Post (11-19-08)

Over 900 Americans were murdered by poison at Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. Mark Lane was their lawyer. A few years earlier, Mark Lane had been the lawyer for the American Indian Movement (AIM) during their destructive and murderous 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, an Indian community in South Dakota.

Todd Leventhal, who "has a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, a Masters in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University, and a Bachelors degree in finance from the University of Colorado," writes about the conspiracy lawyer-writer Mark Lane for (11-24-08).

Mr. Leventhal should read American Indian Mafia by Joe and John Trimbach, because he seems unaware of the role that Mark Lane played in 1973 when the South Dakota Indian village of Wounded Knee was taken over by his clients, violent killers.

Mr. Leventhal writes:

On November 19, Washington Post reporter Charles Krause wrote an account of what happened when he was shot and wounded while accompanying U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. Ryan’s visit prompted Jonestown leader Jim Jones to murder Ryan and others in his party as well as 909 Jonestown residents, who died in a revolutionary “mass suicide.”

Krause recalls his encounter at that time with Mark Lane, a lawyer for Jonestown and author of one of the most influential conspiracy theory books on the Kennedy assassination, Rush to Judgment. Lane had accompanied Ryan, Krause and others in their visit to Jonestown, but escaped the carnage.

Krause writes:

A few days after the killings, Lane asked me if I had eaten the cheese sandwiches served to us that day before we left for the airstrip where I was wounded and Ryan was murdered. When I said yes, I had eaten the sandwiches, Lane said he had not – because he’d been told they were poisoned. Why hadn’t he told Ryan and the rest of us, I asked. There was no response.

Lane’s ethical lapses are also evident in Rush to Judgment. Vincent Bugliosi writes, in Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “if the reader checks Lane’s assertions against the evidence produced by the [Warren] Commission … he or she will find that Lane’s contentions are either distortions or outright fabrications.”

Bugliosi notes that Lane says that none of the doctors who treated Kennedy in Dallas observed a bullet entry wound in the back of his head. This would seem to indicate that Oswald, who was behind Kennedy, could not have been the assassin. But Bugliosi says the reason the doctors saw no entry wound is that they did not turn over Kennedy’s body to look at the back of his head. Their concern was treating his visible injuries to try to save his life.

It sounds like it’s not wise to trust either a cheese sandwich served by Lane’s employers or a book produced by him.

In a related historical footnote, when Vasili Mitrokhin, senior archivist for the KGB’s First Chief Directorate, defected to the United Kingdom in 1992 with thousands of transcribed summaries of KGB documents, he revealed the KGB had sent Lane, through an intermediary, $2000 to support his work on Rush to Judgment. Lane says he did not know these funds had come from the KGB, although the KGB suspected he might have guessed.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

PBS Ombusdman Michael Getler Responds to WKVAVA

"The [PBS] series ["We Shall Remain"] was reviewed by 'a group of prominent scholars of Native American history' and by 'several program advisors who are expert in this particular chapter of Native history.' Having said that, it seems to me that PBS ought to present Trimbach's complaints [about the May 11 episode titled "Wounded Knee"] to these scholars or, even better, a small group of scholars not connected to the program, for some kind of more detailed reply. This might take a while but it seems worth it, especially since there are a lot of teaching materials associated with the series."--PBS Ombusdman Michael Getler

The Ombusdman for PBS, Michael Getler, writes (5-20-09) that PBS should give scholars a chance to respond to Mr. Trimbach's concerns, but Mr. Getler doesn't suggest that the Indian members of the WKVAVA, such as the eyewitness to AIM violence Mr. Two Elk, also have access to these scholars.

PBS claims that their series is told "from the Native American perspective," so it seems to me that the Indian members of The Wounded Knee Victims and Veterans Association (WKVAVA) should also have access to the scholars PBS assembles. PBS probably doesn't realize that the so-called "Indian perspective" on Wounded Knee is often propaganda spread by white radicals like the ex-professor Ward Churchill, or by AIMsters trying to cover-up their crimes by maquerading as human rights activists, or by communist AIM lawyers such as Mark Lane, who maintained a relationship with the KGB journalist/political operative Genrikh Borovik, according to documentation provided by the defector Mitrokhin. Borovik is the brother-in-law of the KGB chief Kryuchkov, who was part of the coup that overthrew Gorbachev. Mark Lane was also the lawyer for the people at Jonestown, but he managed to escape when over 900 people were murdered with poison.

Much of the documentation in the Trimbachs' book American Indian Mafia is based on the eyewitness testimony and investigations of Indian WKVAVA researchers. A lot of the book tells the story of how the WKVAVA members and other Indians came forward with or developed their evidence. The book may have been written by a white FBI agent, but his sources are often Indians.

The title of the Trimbachs' book American Indian Mafia was taken from Congressional testimony about the violence and criminal leadership of the AIM. Mr. Getler seems to think that the title was the Trimbachs mocking the AIM. Mr. Getler hasn't acquainted himself with the Congressional testimony about AIM's criminal activities such as drug-dealing and gun-running, or he would know that the leaders of AIM literally were a mafia.

Mr. Getler doesn't mention that AIM vandalized or stole valuable Indian artifacts from the Gildersleeve's small Indian museum at Wounded Knee and reportedly sold the stolen loot to white collectors. Would real Indians rights activists destroy and steal Indian artifacts?

Mr. Getler doesn't even mention that AIM reportedly murdered Ray Robinson and others inside Wounded Knee during the occupation and buried their bodies near the village.

Still, Mr. Getler has posted the letter from the WKVAVA below his essay.

I have posted Mr. Getler's Ombudsman Column and the WKVAVA letter he appends to his essay below, but see the WKVAVA letter and especially the letter from Cheryl Buswell-Robinson, whose husband was one of the people murdered by the AIM and buried near the village of Wounded Knee, here.

The Ombudsman Column

Burying Some Questions at Wounded Knee
By Michael Getler
May 20, 2009

An ambitious and, I thought, powerful and illuminating five-part series on the relentlessly tragic yet often stirring history of the American Indian unfolded on PBS stations for 90 minutes on consecutive Monday evenings from April 13 through May 11.

This unusual documentary — combining re-enactments with archival photos and films, and loaded with mostly Native American historians and talking heads, and a narrator who carried the theme of valiant yet ultimately fruitless resistance to the encroachment of the white man — took viewers from the time in 1621 when the Native Americans first encountered the Pilgrims who came aboard the Mayflower to the still-controversial siege at the historic village of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in 1973.

The mini-series, titled "We Shall Remain," is part of the broader "American Experience" documentary series produced by WGBH in Boston. In promoting the films, PBS described the series as one that focuses on pivotal, historic moments "from the Native American perspective" spanning more than 300 years of American history. It "shows how Native peoples valiantly resisted expulsion from their lands and fought the extinction of their culture" and it represents "an unprecedented collaboration between Native and non-Native filmmakers and involves Native advisors and scholars at all levels of the project."

Scholarship and Criticism

That invocation of scholarship has become an issue for me because a group calling itself "The Wounded Knee Victims and Veterans Association" has issued a lengthy and detailed challenge to numerous aspects of the final 90-minute episode that aired last week.

The letter, dated May 10, containing that challenge is signed by nine people, seven of them Native Americans. But the lead writers are the now retired former FBI special agent in charge during the 1973 episode, Joseph H. Trimbach, and his son, John M. Trimbach. The father and son have also co-authored a book, "American Indian Mafia," which offers a sharply different and critical view of events at Wounded Knee and especially of the activities of the American Indian Movement (AIM) members who took over and occupied the village and confronted Federal agents during the 71-day siege. The title of the book mocks the name of the AIM.

The letter from the Trimbachs and their colleagues was addressed to PBS President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Kerger, and it is a detailed, non-stop, frontal attack on the program.

Here's the first paragraph:

"We wish to express our concerns about the PBS-backed production of 'Wounded Knee,' the final installment of the 'American Experience — We Shall Remain' series. We believe that the producer, Stanley Nelson of Firelight Media, violates PBS's own guidelines for editorial integrity, honesty, and fairness. PBS guidelines state: 'When editing, producers of informational content must not sensationalize events or create a misleading or unfair version of what actually occurred' and that '(p)roducers must assure that edited material remains faithful in tone . . .' and is presented '. . . in a manner that fairly portrays reality.' Wounded Knee fails on all counts. This production employs distorted editing, deceptive statements, audience manipulation, and a propagandistic narrative that rationalizes the terror, violence, and murders perpetrated by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) during the 1973 occupation of the historic Indian village of Wounded Knee."

The letter (which is printed at the end of this column) goes on for six full pages, with challenges to several specific statements and scenes in the segment. I'll come back to the body of that letter, but on May 15, Kerger wrote to John Trimbach and included a response from Mark Samels, the executive producer of American Experience, "describing the steps the producers took to help ensure the integrity of the referenced program."

Here's How Samels Responded:

"The film 'Wounded Knee' was reviewed at various stages in its production, from script treatment to final cut, by a group of prominent scholars of Native American history, who served as advisors to We Shall Remain, the ground-breaking series on Native history of which 'Wounded Knee' is a part. In addition, 'Wounded Knee' was reviewed by several program advisors who are expert in this particular chapter of Native history.

"Our film was not intended to be a comprehensive history of either the American Indian Movement or the village of Wounded Knee. Instead, it was designed to focus on what happened at Wounded Knee during the 1973 occupation, and what role the siege played in the larger story of Native Americans in the 20th century. We were particularly concerned with the events preceding the siege that contributed to a sense of dislocation and desperation in many Native communities across the country. And we were interested in what effect the occupation, and its widespread media coverage, had on Indians far removed from Wounded Knee.

"We believe there is ample evidence in the film of AIM's controversial use of armed confrontation and violence, from the preceding events in nearby Custer — where AIM members attacked and laid waste to the courthouse — to the sacking of a family-owned store in Wounded Knee. Archival footage featured in the film clearly shows devastation in the village during the siege, as Mayor Dick Wilson characterizes AIM members as 'hoodlums' and 'clowns.' As one of the interviewees states in the film, 'Where AIM goes, chaos often follows.'

"Our producers took great pains to be even-handed in the portrayal of the siege at Wounded Knee. This is a difficult piece of American history and we believe our film presents it with the care and complexity it deserves."

My Thoughts

First, a logistical note. The critique presented by the Trimbachs and their co-signers is, as I said earlier, very long. As far as I know, no one else has written about this other than a news story on on May 13 reporting on the Victims and Veterans Association's accusation that PBS had slanted the telling of the Wounded Knee story to glorify AIM and disregard the real victims of Wounded Knee, the villagers who lived there. The story did not post the letter online. Trimbach wrote and asked that it be posted on my site and I have done that for those who wish to pursue this in greater detail.

My reaction as a lay viewer to the series, including the final segment, was one of feeling grateful for the production. The history of Native Americans in this country is so extraordinary, so important to understanding who we are and how we got here, so revealing of diversity among tribes, of suffering by all of them, and of the emergence of extraordinary natural leaders from within that suffering population, that all serious reminders of this story should be welcomed. And this was a serious production.

The reviews I read about the series in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and The Washington Post were all generally positive and did not focus or mention the kind of challenge to the history of Wounded Knee that is contained in the protest letter. As I checked various impartial online reference sources about the siege that began on Feb. 27, 1973 and ended on May 8, including, for example, a lengthy report by former Sen. James G. Abourezk there was also little mention of, or material to resolve, the kind of challenges raised by the Trimbachs and their co-signers.

On the other hand, there is no question but that there were, and are, continuing disputes about exactly what happened inside Wounded Knee during that period. There were deep divisions, pitting AIM and some of its generally impoverished tribal allies against other Indians of mixed-blood, like the authorities within the reservation who were reviled and portrayed as corrupt by AIM and many more traditional Indians. AIM was a militant, activist group with a long string of protests and demonstrations, some of which had turned violent, that had grabbed public attention. They sought to take advantage of the growing civil rights movement in the country at that time. And, as dramatic as the siege of Wounded Knee was, and for all the press coverage it attracted, the Nixon administration that would try to deal with the armed stand-off was also distracted by something else that was unfolding at the same time — Watergate.

The confrontation at Wounded Knee in 1973 — which had also been the scene of a historic massacre of Indians in 1890 — was dramatic and confusing. Some of the history and events will undoubtedly always be disputed. In the end, it looked like a defeat for AIM and its supporters among the local Oglala Sioux. But the episode remains one of those formative events that focused the attention of a nation that traditionally looks forward on something that happened in its past that hasn't quite been fixed.

Provide a More Detailed Response

As a viewer, the film left no doubt with me that it was indeed recorded from a Native American perspective. Yet I think Samels' response, although brief, is correct in that the violent and radical actions of AIM were at least there to be seen in the film. In Trimbach's assessment, however, and that of his co-signers, although seemingly a minority view, the role of AIM and others — particularly the government forces, the local authorities, and the "victims" inside the village who lost everything because of the take-over and siege — was inaccurately presented and unfairly represented.

In my research, I did find some support for that view in two relatively recent articles by Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota Indian and founder of the Native American Journalists Association.

In his response, Samels mentions twice that the series was reviewed by "a group of prominent scholars of Native American history" and by "several program advisors who are expert in this particular chapter of Native history." Having said that, it seems to me that PBS ought to present Trimbach's complaints to these scholars or, even better, a small group of scholars not connected to the program, for some kind of more detailed reply. This might take a while but it seems worth it, especially since there are a lot of teaching materials associated with the series.

Samels is also almost certainly correct that this film "was not intended to be a comprehensive history of either the American Indian Movement or the village of Wounded Knee." Nevertheless, this is PBS, where people, and students, look for authenticity, and the segment on Wounded Knee is likely to be at the forefront of material on the subject for a long time. So going back and taking a second look at these challenges, responding more fully, and making changes, at least online, if warranted, seems worthwhile to me.

Here Is the Protest Letter:

"This film attempts to explain away the destruction of the village by invoking historical issues (broken treaties, Indian boarding schools, government-sponsored relocation, etc.) and by rationalizing the criminality of the perpetrators. One of the film's worst transgressions is its contemptible disregard for the real victims of Wounded Knee, the villagers who lived there. Aside from a brief statement from one of the Indian hostages, Agnes Gildersleeve, the villagers' stories are virtually absent from this film. 'Wounded Knee' does not even show how AIM systematically tore the village apart and reduced it to complete devastation. The film does not mention that AIM looted the town, stole people's personal possessions, slaughtered cattle in their bedrooms, fire-bombed their homes and vehicles, and desecrated their churches. AIM occupiers stole or destroyed a collection of priceless Indian artifacts when they pillaged the Wounded Knee museum. Rather than condemn AIM violence, 'Wounded Knee' serves as a mouthpiece for the perpetrators who spew their distortions and lies without challenge. To glorify AIM in this way is not only deceitful, it is offensive. This film cheapens genuine Indian valor and heroism.

"For a documentary that purports to be about the armed takeover of a community and its consequences, these are serious shortcomings that demand a response. From a philosophical point of view, the argument that the terror, violence, theft, and loss of life associated with the razing of an Indian village were somehow justified is an argument that is fundamentally flawed and must be exposed.

"Producer Nelson went to great lengths to tell only the perpetrators' side of the story. He misled interviewees, such as Wounded Knee resident Walter Littlemoon, about what would be in the film. Nelson reneged on his agreement to interview Wounded Knee veteran Richard Two Elk, a condition agreed to in exchange for Joe Trimbach's participation. Nelson used Trimbach's interview anyway. Nelson or his surrogates omitted American Indian Mafia from the PBS bibliography. This book, which is supported by thorough documentation, is arguably the most complete and factual account of Wounded Knee's destruction. After Joe Trimbach registered a complaint with your legal department, Mafia was added to the PBS list. One wonders if Mafia was initially excluded simply because it exposes several of the books in the same list as falsified and fraudulent accounts of AIM history and of Wounded Knee. Nelson relies on these falsified books to support his distorted version of what happened in the village. To reference only the falsified accounts is inexcusable. To use this tainted information to construct leading questions for the PBS-endorsed school curriculum is equally scandalous and must also be exposed. There is not one question, for example, that asks how the villagers lost everything they owned.

"We believe that Nelson's failure to interview Two Elk was partly due to the fact that he witnessed the Wounded Knee murder of Perry Ray Robinson, a topic Nelson shows no interest in pursuing. Robinson, the only black man seen inside the village during that period, was a civil rights activist and a colleague of Martin Luther King. Robinson was shot by an AIM leader during a heated argument. His death and burial near the village ruins is one of many AIM secrets that Nelson's production has now helped cover up. A letter from Robinson's widow, Cheryl Buswell-Robinson, is attached.

"Another example of deception is the conspicuous absence of any footage showing Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a prominent and highly visible AIM member at Wounded Knee. Aquash was murdered by AIM leaders in 1975 because they mistakenly believed that she was an FBI informant. Ironically, Wounded Knee warrior Madonna Thunder Hawk, featured throughout the film, is also implicated in Aquash's murder and its subsequent cover-up. Carter Camp, another featured AIM leader, has been repeatedly caught in a lie about knowing Ray Robinson. Today, Camp denies ever meeting him. On camera, Camp has nothing to say about Anna Mae either. In fact, most of the AIM leaders interviewed for this film have been implicated in the Aquash and Robinson murders. Anna Mae likely knew about the Robinson shooting and her leaders' attempts to keep his death a secret, and now it appears Nelson has joined the effort to write her out of existence as well. AIM leaders must surely approve.

"Attached are specific examples of the distortions and outright falsehoods in this film. We believe these examples prove that 'Wounded Knee' falls well outside what might be allowable under artistic license or interpretation of historical events. Instead of documenting Indian history, this film denigrates genuine Indian sacrifice and makes a mockery of true Indian heroism shown in previous segments. We intend to pursue every means available to expose this film for its dishonesty, its revisionist agenda, and its abject failure to tell a fact-based and fair-minded story of Wounded Knee. This production abuses the public trust by recycling and legitimizing what can only be described as vintage AIM propaganda. A PBS-sanctioned curriculum that indoctrinates our children must also be challenged. We therefore demand redress. We want equal time for rebuttal, balance, and clarification. The American public deserves better from our publicly-funded programming. We ask for your immediate response to our concerns.

The Signers

JoAnn Gildersleeve Feraca (Chippewa) daughter of Agnes and Clive Gildersleeve, Wounded Knee Trading Post

Romona and Saunie Wilson (Lakota)daughters of Tribal Chairman Richard Wilson

Richard Two Elk (Lakota) Wounded Knee Veteran and former member, American Indian Movement

Joseph H. Trimbach FBI Special Agent in Charge (Retired)

Professor Patrick LeBeau, (Cheyenne River Sioux, Chippewa) Professor of Indian Studies, Michigan State University

Paul DeMain (Oneida-Ojibwe), Editor, News from Indian Country

Shawn White Wolf (Northern Cheyenne) CEO, White Wolf Media Group

John M. Trimbach Co-author, American Indian Mafia

The Letter Continues with 'Examples of Distortions and Falsehoods'


"'Wounded Knee' constantly cites historical events of the 1800s, the boarding schools of the 1900s, and the government-sponsored Indian relocation plans as a means of rationalizing the terror and violence visited upon Wounded Knee, a village where most of the residents were Indians. Destroying the village had nothing to do with what AIM's Russell Means called 'dignity and self-pride' and must not be used to glorify AIM leaders.

"Film narrative: 'For the next 71 days, Indian protestors at Wounded Knee would hold off the federal government at gun-point.' This statement misreports the facts: government roadblocks were set up to contain the violence and minimize casualties, not to engage the militants in gunfights. This false allegation plays right into the perpetrators' hands and is characteristic of the falsehoods that AIM leaders have so often hoodwinked the media into reporting. It would be more correct to say that Federal Agents and Marshals, in the face of almost nightly, unprovoked gun fire from the militants, tried to protect surrounding villages and towns from violent attacks that could easily have spread across the reservation."The film shows several views of Indians donning war paint but does not mention that they were gearing up for the firefight of March 8, 1973, when several carloads of militants attacked a handful of FBI Agents and U.S. Marshals at Roadblock 3. At the beginning stages of this unprovoked attack, AIM gunmen armed with long-range rifles nearly shot to death one of the FBI's first female Agents, who was armed with only her pistol. The group's distress calls were answered by other Agents who rushed to the scene and repelled the attack. Featured warriors Milo Goings and Webster Poor Bear were injured when FBI Agents returned fire. 'Wounded Knee' neglects to mention that this incident and dozens of shooting incidents were initiated by the militants.

"The APCs: 'Wounded Knee' leaves the false impression that the armored personnel carriers were brought in as offensive weaponry. No one from law enforcement is shown explaining that the APCs were moved into position at the roadblocks to protect FBI Agents and U.S. Marshals from almost daily gunfire attacks. At night, the militants would venture out of the village, move towards the roadblocks, and open fire. Law enforcement personnel, showing incredible patience and restraint, often opted to take cover rather than return fire and risk shooting misguided militants. At times, however, there was no other choice but to repel attacks with return fire. The APCs saved lives on both sides of the barriers at Wounded Knee, a fact never mentioned in the film. Another point not mentioned is that government riflemen could have picked off dozens of militants on numerous occasions. The two official deaths occurred in the late, desperate days of the occupation, during the most intensive gunfights. Had it not been for the professionalism of the FBI and the U.S. Marshal Service, the casualties at Wounded Knee would have been much higher.

"The hostages: 'Wounded Knee' leaves the false impression that the hostages were free to leave once Senators McGovern and Abourezk arrived. This is akin to people breaking into your house and holding you against your will until the authorities arrive and declare that you are now free to leave and turn over all your worldly possessions to the invaders. The truth is, the hostages were never really free, and the media presence may have been the only reason they were not further brutalized. The film fails to report Agnes Gildersleeve's statement that she would give up her home ' . . . only over my dead body. If you're going to burn my home, I'll go with it.' Nor does the film report Dennis Banks's reply, 'That can be arranged.' Agnes's only mention of her status as a hostage is relayed via her captor Russell Means. She is not shown speaking candidly about her predicament. This technique of having the criminal speak on behalf of his victim is patently biased and propagandistic.

"Film narrative: 'On April 26, Wounded Knee sustained the heaviest gunfire of the siege. When the shooting subsided, Buddy Lamont, a thirty-one-year-old Oglala from Pine Ridge, came out to investigate.' This glib distortion fails to report the events that preceded Lamont's death. Lamont was shot and killed during the fiercest gun battle of the occupation, after sustained fire from the militants was aimed at all roadblocks following an illegal weapons and ammunition re-supply. Lamont did not 'come out' as he was already engaged in the firefight. Heavy firing from the village continued from the late hours of April 26 until past noon the next day. The militants had posted one or more snipers at the left flank after which the supervisor on the scene authorized return fire. At 12:20 pm, the militants refused a ceasefire offered by the U.S. Marshals. Lamont was shot during the ensuing firefight, but it is unclear who shot him. Reports show that Lamont was shot in the back. AIM commanders Carter Camp and Stan Holder chose to leave Lamont's body where it lay in a field for two hours before calling for a ceasefire. How did they know if Lamont was even dead? None of these facts are mentioned in the film."


"FBI Agent Trimbach's statement that he immediately proceeded to the main entrance to Wounded Knee is juxtaposed with a daytime reenactment of two cars driving by. Trimbach actually approached Wounded Knee at night, soon after the militants had taken over the village. This distortion minimizes the dangers faced by Trimbach and the handful of poorly-armed Agents left exposed at the emergency roadblock on Big Foot Trail.

"Trimbach's explanation of what it was like to initially approach the militants the first morning of the takeover, unarmed, is juxtaposed with Trimbach's fourth meeting with the militants, once the media had arrived to film it. This distortion minimizes the danger Trimbach faced, since the militants had already fired at FBI Agents, responding Indian firemen, and Indian policemen the night of the takeover. Footage of the fourth encounter does not reflect the reality of the first; it does not show the small group of angry riflemen, all aiming their weapons at Trimbach at close range, as he alone walked up to the barricade. The militants were much better behaved when the cameras were rolling. 'Wounded Knee' constantly showcases the staged, on-camera behavior of the militants to distort the reality of what was happening.

"Film narrative: 'After stripping bare the Wounded Knee Trading Post, the village's only store, the protesters took over a local church, holding the minister and other white residents hostage.' In fact, the majority of hostages were enrolled members of various tribes. The film fails to mention that the militants later burned the Trading Post to the ground and that the hostages were threatened and intimidated into making complimentary statements about their captors when the media was present and the cameras were filming. 'Wounded Knee' completely papers over the fact that the captives were always under duress.

"Film narrative: 'When traditional Oglalas challenged corruption in the tribal government, Dick Wilson responded with force.' 'Wounded Knee' repeatedly demonizes Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson with charges of corruption and strong-arm tactics but fails to report that Wilson initially supported AIM until they looted the BIA building in Washington, D.C. After that incident, during which Indian land deeds were lost and destroyed, Wilson warned Means not to bring the violence back home. 'Wounded Knee' also fails to report that Wilson and his family, under death threats from AIM, were placed under protective custody on February 23, 1973, four days before the takeover of the village. The record shows that much of the violence that engulfed the reservation following the occupation of Wounded Knee was in fact instigated by AIM members, not the Wilson administration. The U.S. Justice Department investigated over 50 allegations of civil rights violations against the tribal chairman and found evidence of possible wrongdoing in only a few cases. Some of those incidents were likely instigated by AIM members. The film does not mention that the Wilson administration was audited by the accounting firm of Touche, Ross, & Company and that no serious wrongdoing of any kind was found. Additionally, Wilson's 'Goons' [Guardians of the Oglala Nation], much maligned in the film, were in fact a legally sanctioned group created for the express purpose of protecting tribal buildings from AIM violence. It is fair to say that Wilson's Goons came into existence to oppose Russell Means's AIM goons.

"Film narrative: 'Prompted by the dissidents, the tribal council held impeachment hearings in February, 1973. But Wilson intimidated witnesses, strong-armed council members and managed to survive.' This statement is read while showing a newspaper article that contradicts this statement. The narrative also fails to mention that Russell Means and his AIM recruits intimidated and terrorized people far more than Wilson and his deputized 'Goons.'

"Film narrative: 'Just weeks before the occupation of Wounded Knee, a white man killed an Indian near Custer, South Dakota, fifty miles from Pine Ridge.' This statement leaves the impression that the Indian was an innocent victim. In fact, the Indian involved was beating another man to death with a tire chain outside a bar in Buffalo Gap. The third man intervened with a pocket knife and inadvertently nicked the assailant's aorta. This incident led to the Custer riot. By failing to mention the details of this death, PBS plays right into the hands of AIM propagandists."


"Film narrative: 'Not only was Dick Wilson still firmly in charge, he would exact revenge on his opponents as the federal government looked the other way . . . In the three years following the siege, two FBI Agents and more than 60 AIM supporters were killed, giving Pine Ridge the highest per capita murder rate in the country.' Even when juxtaposed with Dick Wilson's bravado, these statements are false and inflammatory. The FBI investigated all murders that fell within their jurisdiction. The myth that 60 AIM supporters were killed is nothing but off-the-shelf AIM disinformation. This falsehood has been repeatedly exposed as such and has been rebutted in an FBI report. Some of the listed victims were children who died from abuse or adults who died from exposure after intoxication. Some of the genuine AIM victims were likely murdered by AIM members. Repeating this lie about 60 murders is a despicable attempt to excuse AIM violence and exonerate the guilty. Furthermore, a U.S. District Court found that there was no evidence that the FBI failed to investigate alleged abuses of non-AIM members. Upon examining these cases, the Court stated that the case files did not ' . . . reveal a lack of investigatory effort on the part of the FBI towards non-AIM members, nor do they indicate a failure to prosecute once meaningful evidence had been discovered . . . the evidence simply does not show that the efforts of the government to limit criminal conduct and to bring the perpetrators of it to justice have been discriminatorily directed at the AIM faction.' Parroting the lie that the federal government 'looked the other way' serves no purpose other than to deceive the viewing audience, promote disrespect for law enforcement, and further the lies of AIM leaders.

"Film narrative: 'The Oglalas had exhausted all legal options' in response to 'Wilson's harassment and intimidation.' This statement, offered as fact, is specious. AIM had committed dozens of illegal acts in the run-up to Wounded Knee. It is dishonest to suggest that the Oglalas had tried all legal options before inviting AIM violence onto the reservation, and it is incorrect to characterize the tension between Russell Means and Dick Wilson as only Wilson's doing. The statement also ignores the dozens of tribal programs initiated by Wilson to improve living conditions on the reservation. The film ignores the views of the vast majority of Pine Ridge residents, who resented AIM's intimidation and violence. 'Wounded Knee' also fails to mention that Wilson, who was largely supported by a sometimes contentious tribal council, later defeated his opponent Russell Means in the tribal chairman election.

"Film narrative: 'Government negotiators were uncompromising. They rejected demands to uphold treaty rights and insisted that they were powerless to remove Dick Wilson, regardless of the charges against him, as he was chairman of the sovereign Indian nation.' This statement is false and misleading because treaties require Congressional action: government negotiators are powerless to either uphold or reject treaty rights. Furthermore, the Oglala Sioux tribe had a constitution which governed the rules of impeachment. It is misleading to suggest that government representatives would not allow Wilson to be investigated. In fact, the Wilson administration was investigated by the U.S. Justice Department which later cleared him of the charges alleged by AIM members and supporters.

"Film narrative: 'In the frigid winter of 1890, Chief Big Foot was leading a group of Lakota, mainly women and children, to shelter on the Pine Ridge Reservation. On the morning of December 29, they were attacked by the U.S. Army on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek.' This statement is blatantly false and misleading. On December 28, Chief Big Foot surrendered under a white flag to Major Whitside and his troops. Whitside elected to lead Big Foot and his people to a site near Wounded Knee Creek. The gun battle erupted the next morning after the Indians refused to give up their weapons. There were casualties on both sides. There is ample factual material in the Congressional record which tells the story of what really happened at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. There is no justification for inventing details of this historic event."

Posted by Michael Getler on May 20, 2009 at 11:59 AM